For Tenor and Guitar
The Immortal Ship, settings of Whitman for voice and guitar, was written for James Boyd and inspired by his voyage aboard Concord of Mersea in celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary. It was first performed at the 2012 Aldeburgh Festival by James Boyd with tenor Robin Tritschler.
Aboard at a ship’s helm,
A young steersman steering with care.
Through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,
An ocean-bell – O a warning bell, rock’d by the waves.
O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing,
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.
For as on the alert O steersman, you mind the loud admonition,
The bows turn, the freighted ship tacking speeds away under her gray sails,
The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious wealth speeds
away gayly and safe.
But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the ship!
Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging, voyaging.
Now finale to the shore,
Now land and life finale and farewell,
Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,)
Often enough hast thou adventur’d o’er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts,
Duly again to port and hawser’s tie returning;
But now obey thy cherish’d secret wish,
Embrace thy friends, leave all in order,
To port and hawser’s tie no more returning,
Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor.
Text: Walt Whitman
Commissioned by James Boyd
First performance: 9th June 2012, James Boyd (guitar) and Robin Tritschler (tenor), Aldeburgh Festival.